Dark-skinned models are beautiful, period. Normalize it!

Dark-skinned models are beautiful, period. Normalize it!

It’s always ‘the darker the berry, the sweeter the juice’ until dark-skinned models need work. And then it becomes some of them but not too many.  Let’s talk about colourism.

Colourism gained attention during the rise of the woke era, shedding light on the deep-rooted discrimination against individuals with darker skin. This bias, fueled by prejudice and unfounded assumptions, unfairly deems dark-skinned people as inferior to their lighter-skinned counterparts.

Dark-skinned women across various industries have boldly highlighted the marginalization they face. They encounter makeup products that do not match their skin tones, outright rejections for job opportunities, and inadequate compensation even when hired. This pervasive discrimination underscores the need for a more inclusive and equitable approach in all sectors.

Image: H.F via Pinterest


This piece is inspired by a video that went viral some months ago. In it, a modelling agency head admitted to not casting dark-skinned models due to a lack of demand. The conversation weighed heavily on my mind, and it pushed me to have a similar conversation with a few dark-skinned models in the industry. These are their stories. 


Image: Ruddiyeh via Instagram


“…there’s often a stereotype that dark-skinned models should fit a certain “exotic” or “edgy” look, limiting the types of campaigns and roles I am considered for. This can be frustrating because it pigeonholes us into narrow categories, whereas lighter-skinned models are given a wider variety of opportunities.”



Ruth started in the industry right at the peak of public calls for inclusion. There was interest; many clients and photographers wanted to work with her, but as time went on, she realised this interest did not always translate to consistent opportunities. Casting calls didn’t always need models with skin as dark as hers. Other times, she was the token dark-skinned girl, only accepted to tick an inclusion box—not exactly inclusive. Brands have figured out that including a few dark-skinned models in their line up will help score cheap social points but how much does this help many other models in the industry?

Image: Darchie via Instagram



Darchie worked on various beauty campaigns and music video sets, receiving lower pay than models with lighter skin. When she questioned this disparity, she discovered it was because her skin tone did not match the beauty standards they sought. A study reveals that as individuals get darker, they earn significantly less, losing between $55,000 and $550,000 over a lifetime. This alarming gap highlights the substantial earnings that lighter-skinned counterparts take home.

Image: Olohijolly via Instagram



While I spoke to these models, I noticed that their experiences changed and became better as their skin tone became lighter. Another Model, Jolly, said, “Dark-skinned models are in the limelight in the industry now; I don’t think they are rare in the industry.” It may have been harder for dark-skinned models like her to get into the industry when she first started, but now she has noticed how much easier it is. This is a slight contrast from the experiences of other models where they have noticed society and its beauty standards have hidden many dark-skinned models even before their career could kick off.   


Image: Nimah_21 via Instagram



With these general views from the models, some nuance is important. Nimah started her career in Nigeria but has since transitioned, walking many international runways and partnering with international brands. For her, the perception and opportunities for dark-skinned models at home and abroad differ. Just like Nimah, Darchie believes that they are in better demand outside the country and that opportunities are broader than you will find here. Explaining why, she said, “In Nigeria, colourism is ingrained in society, making it hard for us to appreciate or see dark-skinned women as beautiful. We are often featured to tell a story of culture but not in beauty campaigns.”

Image: Darchie via Instagram


The industry, like many others, has its pros and cons. For Darchie, it boosted her confidence and made her love being a tall, dark-skinned woman, thanks to the way the clothes and colours fit her on the runway. Modelling builds confidence with powerful runways and stunning poses. For Ruth, social media transformed the perception of dark skin, celebrating it as beautiful and creating a movement where millions of followers amplify women’s voices and increase their demand for work.


Image: Curtis Coleman via Pinterest

The industry still has a long way to go, both domestically and internationally. Modelling agencies, marketing companies, and society at large need to move away from the Eurocentric beauty standards that have dominated for so long and embrace beauty in diversity. Dark-skinned women are beautiful, not because they are edgy or different, but simply because they are. This beauty deserves recognition and equal treatment.

Image: Nimah_21 via Instagram


Let’s change the narrative…

  • For the Industry: Modeling agencies, marketing companies and brands need to stop virtue signalling and recognise the need for representation for dark-skinned individuals around the world.
  • For our readers: It’s our responsibility to normalize dark-skinned beauty. That woman isn’t “pretty for a dark-skinned girl”; she’s simply gorgeous. Backhanded compliments like this reinforce the harmful stereotype that dark-skinned women need a special type of beauty to be considered attractive. They don’t.



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